Greek tourism officials have set a target of 25 million holiday visitors to Greece and the Greek Islands in 2015. The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) has announced it is confident of hitting the 25 million mark after news that airline seat capacity to Greek airports this year has risen by one million compared to 2014. The latest figure would set a new record for tourist arrivals in Greece, a record that has already been broken three years running with 2014 easily passing last year's 21 million target. SETE is confident that sales will take off now that a new government is in office and political uncertainty lifted, especially now that fears of a Greek exit from the European Union have faded. But tourism leaders warn that fiscal stability is vital if Greece is to attract even more holiday visitors this year.
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Independent holiday guides to Greece and the Greek islands. We try to keep our Greek holiday guides up to date but it's not easy. Please email Greek Islands Postcards if you spot any errors or omissions.
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As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.
Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.
The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.
The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.
Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.
Featured Greek beaches
Assos beach on Kefalonia
The setting on the Kefalonia west coast is spectacular with a small sandy beach in a horseshoe bay overlooked by a pine forested hill topped with a Venetian fortress. Expect peace and serenity at this remote spot.
Alyki ruins on Thassos
Extensive ruins of an ancient settlement can be found at Alyki with temple remains and a 7th century altar as well as two 5th century Christian churches on the headland above two beautiful bays popular with tourists.
Vatera beach on Lesvos
Vatera is a long sandy beach on the south-east coast of Lesvos with gentle shelving sands and islets offshore. Forested hills, vineyards and olive groves give Vatera a quiet countryside atmosphere with Agios Fokas port nearby.
It's taken years to get off the ground but it looks like seaplane services will be flying out of Corfu in 2015. The last hurdle has been cleared to build a seaplane port in Corfu Town harbour, paving the way for up to 100 seaplane routes between the Greek island over the coming months. Approval has been given for seaplane port builds, a floating pier and up to 10 flight daily from Corfu. Greek company Hellenic Seaplanes says 30 routes are currently in the pipeline and most could be operational next year, notably at other popular tourist islands such as Crete and Zante. Seaplane services should boost holiday tourism on more remote islands currently only reachable by slow ferries. Hellenic Seaways more than just scheduled seaplane flights. Expect sightseeing tours over the Greek Islands as well as a variety of excursion packages.
Favourite Greek sights
Crete war cemeteries
Crete saw fierce fighting in World War II and there are cemeteries to the fallen on both sides. The Maleme hillside has a memorial to the Germans while Souda Bay has the British and Commonwealth War Cemetery.
Sappho's Leap on Lefkas
It's a long drive to Cape Lefkas, or Cape Ducato, where the poet Sappho is said to have jumped to her death, but there are impressive views from the 70 metre high white cliffs on the southern tip of the island.
Mount Oros on Aegina
Mount Oros is an an extinct volcano and Aegina's highest mountain at 532 metres high. A chapel crowns the summit and on lower slopes is the ancient church of Taxiarchis. Climbers enjoy great views from its peak.
Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.
Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.
A total of 38 Greek Island beaches have been stripped of their Blue Flag status this summer after spot checks found they failed to reach the required standards. Corfu was hit the worst after 23 of its 30 island beaches having the coveted Blue Flags withdrawn. Inspectors found that many of the island beaches failed to meet the 32 strict criteria needed to win Blue Flag status. Other notable flag losses were on the islands of Lesvos, Zante and Crete. The setback still leaves Greece second out of 51 countries for the number of clean, safe beaches along its shores, with 370 still flying the Blue Flag, but this will be a bitter blow to Greek tourism leaders. The Blue Flag beach award is considered the gold standard in the tourism industry with the annual accolade issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education.
There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.